Educators and parents get it. There are too many, high-stakes standardized tests in our classrooms. They steal time from the real work of teaching and learning and cause many children so much stress they destroy the joy of learning — and that is shameful.
Even the U.S. Congress gets it. That mostly dysfunctional group of Republicans and Democrats who don’t even like to agree on what day it is sensed so much public, bipartisan aversion to excessive testing that it junked the main test-generator, the No Child Left Behind Act, late last year, repealing the federal requirement that school accountability ratings be tied to test scores. In its place, they enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act, which encourages states to design accountability and teacher evaluation systems that more accurately and fairly reflect what educators actually do in the classroom.
But Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath still doesn’t get it. In one of his first major official acts, he approved a teacher evaluation system that would require school districts to base at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on so-called student growth measures, essentially the test scores that we waste too much time on now.
Texas teachers could be left trying to figure out an incomprehensible formula that allegedly compares their students’ test scores to the scores their students should be making, based on who knows how many factors that Einstein may or may not have been able to figure out.
TSTA opposes several features of Morath’s evaluation plan, and we told him so, to no avail. So, now TSTA is suing him, specifically because we believe his student-growth requirement exceeds the commissioner’s authority under state law.
If Morath doesn’t understand the growing professional and public opposition to excessive, high-stakes testing, then maybe the man who appointed him, Gov. Greg Abbott, doesn’t understand it either.
But the truth is this. Students are not faceless or mindless numbers to crunch into meaningless formulas. And teachers aren’t robots to be rated on what those formulas spit out.